The Calling01 Feb 2016, Posted by Writings in
Remembering Our Promise
Ever since October 16th 2015, when I announced I was living in a “monastery of one” doing philosophy in the spirit of antiquity, I have been working on pieces of a vision with unorthodox foundations that I can now finally share with you.
In ancient Greek, the word for truth, aletheia, etymologically means “not to forget”. The promise of humanity is not betrayed if in our attempts to achieve it we come up short from its complete realization despite having given our all.
For the road of progress is long, and each generation ought to do its part. However, every generation ought not, in overzealousness and arrogance, exceed the appropriate rate of progress lest its speed produce more overall harm than good.
The canvas of mankind should always remain incomplete, so that future generations have space to add their colors, shapes and landscapes just as we added ours. However, though it is not up to us to complete the work, neither are we at liberty to desist from it1.
It is in forgetting our promise that we live a lie. That is when we betray our humanity and that of future generations.
This I Believe
As a Greek philosopher, it was impossible to remain oblivious to the hidden etymological meaning of the Greek word for truth. For part of the duty of a philosopher is not only to seek truth and wisdom but to remind people of its presence or lack thereof. For in the times we live in, where new media have empowered and emboldened the merchants of doubt2, “the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men”3.
This, then, I believe:
We have forgotten that the promise of mankind can only be realized under conditions of freedom, peace, virtue and wisdom. That it is impossible to express our full humanity when those who are free and prosperous depend upon the servitude of others for their freedom and prosperity, and to add insult to injury, instead of using their freedom and prosperity to liberate mankind from the bondage of necessity instead misuse it for conspicuous consumption and the augmentation of their power over others.
We have been led to believe that our problems are of a personal nature and have substituted social development with personal development. But no person has a good chance of growing fully realized in a hazardous socio-political environment, no matter how many self-help books they buy or how many yoga & meditation retreats they participate in.
Society and the individuals that compose it should not be in opposition but in harmony, and progress in tandem. However, we have stripped individuals of their autonomy and disempowered them from affecting social and political affairs by having outsourced their power to do so to representatives most of which use it to only represent themselves and their cronies, hold on to power and perpetuate an unjust status quo.
The monstrous size of modern states under their current form, and perhaps in any form of this size, is incompatible with individual liberty. Artificial persons, that we call corporations, have managed to accrue immense global benefits and power while wreaking havoc worldwide4 and disposing responsibility from the only bodies that it belongs to, namely, those of the human persons who compose them.
Meanwhile global hypocrisy and conveniently short memories with respect to ultimate causes for global suffering and immigrations5 at an unprecedented scale or instances of putting the whole planet at risk to benefit narrow commercial interests parade our news broadcasts incessantly and normalize disaster as if it was a regular affair.
What is to be done?
Last summer I quit a job that would have allowed me to live comfortably anywhere in the world. I then spent all my savings, maxed out all my credit cards and been living like a hermit with Patreon as my only source of income since October 2015 so that I could give birth to a vision that recalls the promise of humanity and attempts to create the preconditions for its actualization.
What Is To Be Done
“Most people prefer to believe that their leaders are just and fair, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, because once a citizen acknowledges that the government under which he lives is lying and corrupt, the citizen has to choose what he or she will do about it. To take action in the face of corrupt government entails risks of harm to life and loved ones. To choose to do nothing is to surrender one’s self-image of standing for principles. Most people do not have the courage to face that choice. Hence, most propaganda is not designed to fool the critical thinker but only to give moral cowards an excuse not to think at all.” – Michael Rivero
Our leaders are not necessarily just, fair or knowledgeable – everybody is winging it. You do not have to choose what you will do about it alone. But only you can make that choice. You can choose to ignore what is happening around you if you wish and keep fighting for personal survival. But your choice has consequences that go beyond you, even if you can’t immediately perceive them. As Sophie Scholl, a biology major at the University of Munich and student leader of the peaceful anti-government resistance group the White Rose in 1940s Germany reminds us:
“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves — or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small.
It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”6
For “what is to give light, must endure burning”7 and that she did: Sophie Scholl was beheaded by the Nazis in February, 1943 – but her light still shines our path.
While it is true that “in an avalanche, no snowflake feels responsible”8 it is up to us, faced with the avalanches of suffering, servitude and injustice, whether we’ll remain passive snowflakes or active men and women like Sophie Scholl.
Working together, time and time again, we’ve proven we can achieve extaordinary tasks. Is not the task that creates the preconditions for the achievement of extraordinary tasks not itself extraordinary?
It is to such a task that I am calling you through a vision that remembers the promise of mankind and tries to honor it.
I have divided the vision into three initiatives that are best introduced by thinking of the following:
1. To achieve any human goal, you need to have a measure of freedom from necessity. By necessity I mean the basic needs. Without those needs satisfied, any human endeavor becomes practically impossible to achieve.
2. If you find a way to satisfy the basic needs, a question naturally occurs. Now that are you free from necessity, what will you use your freedom for?
3. If you decide upon a certain use for your freedom, given humans tend to live together in groups and/or countries, it’s important to live under socio-political conditions that allow you to exercise your choices.
Regenerating Freedom deals with the first issue. Achieving freedom from necessity in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, depend on the government, or require the servitude of others. Its goal is to use modern technology to achieve that with the minimum amount of labor.
Philosophy Reborn deals with the second issue. By reviving the original meaning of philosophy, it aims to facilitate our quest in understanding our world and what we should do in it.
Filiki Eteria deals with the third issue. For once we do come to some conclusions as to what we should do and why, we want to proceed into building a life that enables us to do that. To have that liberty, presupposes a socio-political framework that allows for that possibility. Filiki Eteria deals with creating such frameworks, finding ways to overcome the theoretical and practical challenges inherent in such initiatives.
These initiatives constitute the vision of Idealism in Practice.
Working on this vision would allow you to walk anywhere in the world without shame with your head held high, for the goal benefits not just customers or share-holders but mankind. A work with a mission not based on the cold deliberations of a PR office but as the result of overcoming existential angst and engaging in a lifelong journey in the deepest longings of the soul of man, aiming not only at personal liberation and well-being but at the liberation and well-being of humanity.
Where the goal is not to create products and services that distract us from our destiny but create the preconditions that allow us to discover and fulfill it.
It is the only endeavor, the only “startup”, with which I have no hesitation to look straight into your eyes and tell you:
Let’s make work a mostly free activity motivated primarily by love and not necessity. Let’s discover how to use our freedom wisely.
I used my resources to create a mast that enabled me to see land on the horizon. Now, I need a crew and new resources to build the rest of the ship and get there.
Some may ask: is this Utopian?
I can only reply with the immortal words of Oscar Wilde:
“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.”9
Let us prepare to set sail then so we can finally arrive, for the first time since creation, to face our real permanent problem – how to use our freedom to live wisely, agreeably and well10.
Meet you at the docks.
- Pirkei Avot 2:21
- See The Merchants of Doubt and the Wikipedia entry on Agnotology
- G. Orwell, Review of Power: A New Social Analysis by Bertrand Russell in The Adelphi, January 1939
- See Out of Sight: The Long and Disturbing Story of Corporations Outsourcing Catastrophe, by Erik Loomis, The New Press, 2015
- See the Washington Post’s “The chaos in the Middle East, explained in one (long) sentence” for a good reminder
- Quote from Sophie Scholl: Die letzten Tage, 2005
- V. Frankl, psychotherapist, founder of logotherapy and Holocaust survivor
- Stanisław Jerzy Lec, More Unkempt Thoughts, 1968
- O. Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism
- This is a slight paraphrase from a phrase by the economist John Maynard Keynes, as found in Essays in Persuasion, p.367, Norton, 1963